Author: Brad Swanson, ASLA, RLA, CSI, CDT, LEED AP
When I first started presenting to architectural firms back in 2005, I always addressed paver characteristics and it seemed to grab the attention of designers. Sometimes I got the impression this section of my presentation was overwhelming because it broke the norms of what a “paver” was. These were different than the 4×8 rectangular paver they’d seen so many times in the suburban sprawl of the late 70’s and 80’s. Or maybe their prior experience using clay pavers with limited size options defaulting usually to a 4×8 shape, limited the expectations as to how a decorative, segmental paver could be used. I could see their eyes light up and could almost predict what they were going to say next. Most of the time it was something like, “I didn’t know you could do that with concrete pavers”. Often, the presentation evaluations would confirm they didn’t know all the products that were available to them. They started to envision using pavers on the ground plane like paint on a canvas. Pavers presented an opportunity for their signature on a project. Pavers added another dimension to their site plan. Sidewalks, plazas, accent areas were no longer just sidewalks, plazas and accent areas. They had meaning. They have a language. They built an identity.
Let me back up a bit and give a quick and simple explanation. During the design process, often pavers are generically shown in a concept and/or schematic plans with size, color and maybe texture depending on the media. This helps designers indicate their intent or send a message about the space. For example, they may be communicating a hierarchy of importance or how movement should occur. In doing so, this helps the designers frame an idea to the decision makers and provide them reference, a mental picture. Then moving forward through this design process, these ideas are refined and new layers are added.
Selecting a concrete paver can be challenging if you’re not familiar with our vernacular. It doesn’t need to be that way. We like to make selecting a concrete paver an easy and exciting process. Concrete pavers differ from other paving and paver types. It is a very versatile material. The range of options is pretty incredible and often hard to comprehend in just one meeting.
I explain to designers a three-step process. The selection can occur in any order but I recommend doing it this way:
Those are the starting points. If the designer knows they only want to work with a large rectangle based on their concept/schematic plan, then start there and work on the other options. Or if they only want a dark grey paver, start there and work the options for those colors. Let’s explain all these options or what I like to call “key characteristics”:
Once designers are introduced to the full range of key characteristics, they began to understand the Unilock vernacular. What I mean by that is being able to understand the layers of key considerations. Sometimes, it can become confusing. Other times, their vision is confirmed and rewarded. You can see this repeatedly as you flip through the projects in our commercial catalog or website. Unique project after unique project, full of different ideas and design intents. Let us know how we can inspire you.